They’re talking – to me, it seems – but all I can hear is static.
I close my eyes again for what seemed like forever and, after a while, I could hear them properly. So many voices, coated with apprehension and relief at the same time. I open my eyes again, slowly this time, and they don’t sting so much anymore.
“Give it to me straight, doc. What have I got?”
It was just like in the movies; you could always tell when a doctor was going to deliver an unpalatable diagnosis. I had been ushered into the doctor’s office moments after I woke up and could walk again. That’s when I got briefed on what was exactly going on. I had slumped on my steering wheel on the way to work this morning. Luckily, the car was not in motion at the time – one thing to chuck to the infamous Lagos traffic. It was when the cars in front of me had moved on and mine was still in position that the irate drivers behind me noticed – after tossing many vernacular profanities at me – that I wasn’t exactly moving. I was pulled off the front seat by some guys and driven to this hospital in my car. Or so the story goes.
“You’re a lucky man, Peter. But not so lucky, I’m afraid.”
His forced chuckle betrayed his discomfort. He winced as he looked at me. I think he was kicking himself for coming off as facetious at a such a moment. My personal effects – which had been in my car – were on his desk.
“You have a brain aneurysm. We did a scan – it’s been there for a long time and has been growing rapidly lately. It’s about to pop and is the reason you passed out this morning. It’s bad, Peter.”
“How bad is it, doc? Bad – I’ll be in pain for a while and then be fine – bad or bad – the world as I know it s over -bad?”
“You have 3 days, Peter. Maybe four, max.”
It was grim. The walls of the room and everything else dissolved into one big pile of nothingness leaving the doc and I swirling in a dark space with grief laden faces. When someone opened the door and walked in, to ask the doctor for a consult or something, my mind jolted back.
“Thank you, doctor. I need to get home.” His face looked torn. I felt a little sorry for him, but he wasn’t dying. I was. I grabbed my phone, keys and my other belongings on his desk and stepped out.
Three days? I had never been so confused in my entire life. I drove home instead of going to the office. If I was dying in 3 days, they might as well start getting used to my not coming in to work anymore. A part of me wished the bloody aneurysm would pop right away and rid me of the morbid thoughts numbing my consciousness.
I haven’t called anyone yet – not my parents or any of my friends. I don’t want to. How do you tell your loved ones you’re dying? That’s not the kind of information they or anyone else should have to live with. Better to hear you died than to learn one is dying in a few days and then start grieving right in front of you. Well, maybe not better better but I’m not quite sure the opportunity of saying goodbye makes dying the least bit easier on anyone. Aneurysm? I’m a walking time bomb, apparently. Look at that.
“Apologies for not showing up today and not taking your calls, boss. I had an emergency.” I hit send on the email, half hoping he wasn’t online. There’s an email from HR which I don’t even bother to open. The obligatory query for being absent. There’s a text from Tolu, my team mate, asking where I was and if I was taking the day off. It came in about the time I was in the hospital. No use in responding to that now. Going on Twitter and checking Whatsapp messages seem so marvelously vain at this point that I don’t even bother with the notifications. I need to be alone.
Time doesn’t stop for a dying man. Last night was kind of a blur and I was a little disappointed when my alarm roused me this morning. Everything was carrying on like nothing was different, like nothing significant was about to happen. The futility of a human life couldn’t sway the inertia intricately worked into the universe. The world wasn’t going to stop because I was dying, sadly.
You know how people have bucket lists and such things that they look to do before they die? Such a concept seems so banal in the face of impending death. Going hiking in the Himalayas or going to Safari in some desert wasn’t going to give me some new lease on life. The ominousness cripples you. Not that I could even afford some cheesy shit like that if I wanted to. And I’m not sure it would have mattered if it was so.
I couldn’t go to the ends of the earth but I could eat a good meal. I can afford to splurge now, no need to ration my income if I wasn’t going to have need of it later. I went online and ordered any special meal I could think of. KFC, Dominoes, Chicken Republic… I looked them up and ordered breakfast, lunch and dinner right away. I’m just gonna stay here in my apartment and eat and drink and wallow. Power goes out soon afterwards and I pour some fuel in the generator before starting it, cursing at PHCN under my breath the whole time.
This is the longest amount of time I’ve clocked in my apartment in one stretch since I moved in here eight months ago. One never has time to do much else beside work and even unofficial events – going out to see friends, attending parties, going grocery shopping, etc – has to be scheduled, or they very likely would not happen. Everyone is busy. No one will know I’m gone until much, much later when someone notices my absence from the scheme of things. Perks of living alone. I almost call my mum to tell her but couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I ate so much food at lunch I nearly passed out. I am thinking I might not want to wait for this timer in my head to run out but I have never contemplated suicide before and the thought is a tad repulsive to me at first. Then a part of my brain gets to work on ferreting out a plan to do it and yet make it seem to have occurred inadvertently. It is very exhausting work, trying to die.
I’m a little unhinged. I keep dithering across the various stages of grief, racing back to denial soon after I think I’ve come to terms with my fate. My phone rings – it’s the hospital again – and I toss the phone on the bed. I don’t have time for pity speeches that will do nothing for me but make the doctor feel a bit better about himself. Calls came from the office too. Pretty sure there’s a ton of queries awaiting me now.
Last night. If the doctor had the timing spot on, that is. I’m not going to die here with no one to find me. My landlord is a good man and I wouldn’t want to gift him with the burden of taking out a decomposed corpse from his apartment days – or weeks – later. I throw on some clothes, grab my keys and drive out into the city.
I have no exact destination in mind. I just want to drive around the city to see the sights, to clear my head. I head out from Obalende and just follow the trail of cars going to CMS, glancing at people hurrying by on the sidewalk and at the other people in my line of sight. None of these people will remember me, I say to myself, and then it dawns on me I actually have to tell someone what was up. I pull the car over in a street corner and whip out my phone. I dial mum’s number and it rings out without anyone answering. Maybe I’ll call in the morning, I say. I try to text but decide against it.
I start the car and back out onto the street and hear a thud. I look in the mirror and see a tray of oranges on the floor and a young girl sprawled beside it, oranges scattered everywhere. There are a few persons rushing towards the car, yelling, and I impulsively hit the accelerator and zoom off the street as fast as I could. I keep asking myself why I am running away but I don’t stop. There’s no car in pursuit.
Home. Guilt-ridden and exhausted, I got off the car and curse myself for going out in the first place. I may very well have killed someone tonight and I didn’t stop to check. The fear of being mobbed by the area boys put my mind in overdrive. I should have welcomed it, seeing I needed to not be conscious when the blasted aneurysm pops. Someone probably described my car to the cops, well I won’t be driving it tomorrow or afterwards.
I can’t sleep. I decide to go through the texts on my phone. There’s the ever consistent barrage of network promo texts and some from people at the office. I find one from the hospital. It came in yesterday morning. They want me to come in as soon as possible and hope I haven’t done anything drastic or silly. They think they may have overblown my diagnoses initially and now think they can excise the tumor to give me a fighting chance at life. Look at that.
I should be relieved but what I feel is not nearly close to relief. I didn’t deserve to live anymore, and there’s probably a hunt for me out there. I want everything to be over but, with the timing of the aneurysm now suspect, it appears my misery will be prolonged. I pick up the phone again and contemplate calling the doctor. I want to die but I am a coward.